Comparing 53-Man Roster Projections: Is Romo on the Bubble?
We sincerely hope you immediately realized that title was a joke. If you are one of the coo coo fans who thinks Tony Romo needs to go, then you probably don’t have the requisite background to appreciate a debate concerning rookie free agent Scott Sicko’s chance of making the 53-man roster.
Alrighty. . . now that we have effectively alienated half of our fan base (hey, it’s what we do), we wanted to point you in the direction of Dallas Morning News’ reporter Todd Archer’s 53-man roster projection. As you may recall, we predicted the final roster cuts about a week ago. Archer envisions the Cowboys taking quite a different approach.
First for the similarities:
- Quarterback, running back, and the specialty positions are all fairly easy to predict (although K David Buehler may eventually have company), and are thus identical between us.
- Archer joins us as one of the few to believe six wide receivers (Austin, Williams, Bryant, Crayton, Ogletree, and Hurd) will all make the final roster.
Surprisingly, the similarities stop there. Here is what we have different:
- Archer envisions FB Deon Anderson being released and the Cowboys not even bothering to keep a fullback. He believes undrafted rookie TE Scott Sicko will be the main beneficiary of that move.
We disagree with this prediction because the fullback position is actually quite vital to the Cowboys’ offense. Don’t forget that, according to a study we published just after the 2009 season concluded, Anderson was far superior in run blocking than TE John Phillips (to the tune of nearly two yards-per-carry more with Anderson in the game despite a 3:1 run-to-pass ratio during those plays). The difference in the efficiency of the passing game with each player in the lineup was negligible. See the chart to the left for more details.
- Archer, like us, is projecting the Cowboys to retain nine offensive linemen. We actually only have one player different on the entire line: he has last year’s practice squad guard Travis Bright substituted for Cory Procter.
We actually believe Bright is a superior player and even had him in our initial roster projection, but we all know the coaching staff values Procter’s versatility to play both center and guard. For this reason, we see the band “Free Reign” sticking together for another season.
- We have one extra defensive lineman (Marcus Dixon) making the cut.
We both agree on rookie seventh-rounder Sean Lissemore having a difficult time making the squad (although we are rooting for him). The issue is that the Cowboys may not have a true backup nose tackle behind Ratliff if Junior Siavii is let go. If Lissemore can prove he is up for the task of playing inside, he could take Siavii’s spot.
Archer is projecting just six defensive linemen to make the final roster. However, Coach Phillips loves to rotate defensive linemen, so we believe there could easily be a seventh defensive line spot available. We see it going to Marcus Dixon, a player is improving vastly from year to year. We really don’t think there is any way the Cowboys will be able to keep him off of the roster this season. For more on Dixon, check out our interview with the up-and-coming defensive end.
- We believe the Cowboys will keep a fifth outside linebacker (Curtis Johnson).
The Cowboys are in the business of retaining the best football players possible. Johnson is a highly underrated pass-rusher who could act as a security blanket for the Cowboys. Without him, the team would be relying on inexperienced second-year players Victor Butler and Brandon Williams to be the primary backups to Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. We wrote about this scenario in a recent Mailbag.
- Archer believes the Cowboys will keep the standard five cornerbacks, while we believe it could be just four.
Only four cornerbacks in this day and age? The reason behind our prediction is that the Cowboys will have two safeties on the roster (Alan Ball and rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah) who will be able to play cornerback. In a way, the team will really have six cornerbacks on the roster even if they only list four at the position.
Archer also believes the Cowboys will keep two rookies: Jamar Wall and undrafted free agent Bryan McCann. McCann is actually a player we predicted the Cowboys might select late in the draft.
We believe the versatility of the Cowboys’ safeties means both players could have trouble making the squad. Wall struggled badly in mini-camp and McCann will have an uphill battle as an undrafted player and with Wall already ahead of him.
The reason we have neither Wall nor McCann making the final roster is due to a player many Cowboys fans probably don’t even know (but one the coaches love)–Cletis Gordon. Now, Gordon’s opportunity to make the final cut may have shrunk once the Cowboys upgraded the return spots with Dez Bryant and AOA (Gordon was–and still is–a sleeper to return kickoffs), but we think the coaches will ultimately deem Gordon as the fourth-best cornerback on the roster.
- Archer, like us, is projecting five safeties to make the roster. He believes the fifth guy will be undrafted free agent Barry Church, however, while we see the Cowboys signing soon-to-be unrestricted free agent O.J. Atogwe.
We are going out on a limb to project a player on another team who is not even currently an unrestricted free agent (he becomes one on June 1) to come to Dallas, but we don’t see how the Cowboys can be comfortable with either Alan Ball or Michael Hamlin starting at free safety.
Ball played adequately last season (we gave him a ‘C+’ overall grade), but the ‘Boys don’t need just ‘adequate’ play from their free safety anymore. Ken Hamlin was released because he lacked the ability to make big plays. Atogwe is a ball-hawk (15 interceptions in the last three seasons for a St. Louis defense that was attacked on the ground more than through the air) who would provide the Cowboys with what they currently lack in the back of the secondary.